Kids have ‘wunnerful’ time on family room dance floor

You can still catch Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights. Of course, that’s assuming you want to. He’s on PBS, still leading ladies across the dance floor, tapping the baton with “ah one, ah two, ah three,” and cuing the bubble machine.

My three great aunts, who lived together in a two-story white clapboard house in Lincoln, Nebraska, used to watch “The Lawrence Welk” program religiously. It was like attending the United Church of Lawrence Welk—services lawrence welk ladiesevery Saturday night at 7. The room was hushed, viewers sat quietly and watched with reverence.

Despite regular attendance, I lost interest in Lawrence Welk and we went our separate ways, although I doubt Mr. Welk noticed. Maverick that I was, I found myself more drawn to Ed Sullivan who hosted acrobats spinning plates and a curious rock band from England.

Some years later, after I had married and had become a mother, I heard a familiar “ah one, ah two, ah three” drifting into the kitchen one Saturday night.

Our preschool children were plastered to the television, transfixed by Lawrence Welk and his color-coordinated orchestra. They were mesmerized by the hairdos, hats and costumes, the sets, the singing and the dancing. At least the girls were. Our son wasn’t that interested; he probably had something to dismantle somewhere.

“Back up from the television before those bubbles burst in your face, girls!” They did back up, all the way to the toy chest. They reappeared wearing play high heels, faux fur stoles and dress up clothes. They imitated the dancers on screen. They danced with each other. And they danced with their dad, that night and many Saturday nights to follow.

Eventually they, too, grew older and their tastes change. They lost interest and the Saturday night dances faded into memory.

We hadn’t heard from Lawrence for some time. Then a couple of weeks ago when three of the grands were with us for the weekend, one of the five-year-olds asked if Lawrence Welk would be on.

“Of course,” we chimed, as though he was part of our weekend routine.

They stared with big eyes at puffy hair styles, bright costumes and a beautiful brunette singing out her heart in Spanish. They danced with each other and danced with Grandpa. The numbers that seemed dated to us were fresh to them. The warmth and affection of the performers appealed to the girls as much as the gowns and the gloves.

And then a baritone crooner sang, “Somebody Stole My Gal.”

Somebody stole his gal!
Somebody stole his gal!

“What’s a gal?” a small voice asked.

“It’s like a girlfriend.”

“Somebody stole his girlfriend?” another asked with concern.

“It sounds like it.”

The three of them stood wide eyed in disbelief. There was palpable concern; it was an unanticipated ripple.

The next number began and the camera zoomed in on a woman playing trumpet.

“Is that a gal?” the 3-year-old asked

“Yep.”

“Maybe she’s the one he’s looking for!”

Problem solved. Cue the bubble machine. Adios, au revoir, auf weidersehn.

 

 

 

 

Why you probably can’t measure up to the dress

A website I was browsing offered a helpful feature for online shoppers—the  model’s height and the size of the dress she was wearing.

I was looking at a particular dress, wondering if it might be doable, if it might be forgiving in all the right places, if maybe I could actually wear it, when I noticed small print saying the model wearing the dress was 5’10” and wears a size 2.measuring tape this one

And another dream dies.

Knowing the model’s height and dress size unravels one of the great mysteries of the universe—why a dress never looks as good on most of us as it does on a model. Or on the hanger for that matter.

Statistically, the odds are far greater that you are closer to 5’2” and a size 10 than you are closer to 5’10” and a size 2. Same numbers, just a slightly different order.

Honestly, I wouldn’t even mind if they included a little asterisk beside the model’s stats that said, “If you’re not 5”10” and/or a size 2, and you regularly eat solid food, this dress will not look the same on you. Not even close. Not ever. Not even if we undo the chip clips.”

Have you seen the chip clips? They may be the ultimate fusion of food and fashion.

If you’ve glanced at the back of a store mannequin lately, you may have noticed the excess yardage of the clothing pulled to the back and gathered in what looks to be a chip clip. I saw one recently with a clip just like the one we put on the bag of tortilla chips. Or is it the Flaming Cheetos? Some people use chip clips to store chips, others use them to make their clothes fit. You’re either in one camp or the other.

The dress site that gave the model’s height and dress size also gave measurements for her bust, waist and hips. She was 34, 24, 34. She being the one whose lips have not tasted a medium rare steak in years, nor known the comfort of pie. It was like a flashback to the old Miss America pageants, where the host would announce the contestant’s name, the state she was representing, her height, weight, bust, waist and hip measurements in a warm and congenial tone, like it was the way everyone introduced themselves to strangers.

My first literary agent said that when she hit 50, she weighed exactly the same that she did when she was 20. It just all shifted.

There might have been a day I wished I had to use a chip clip on the back of a dress, but now I am glad to have them where they belong – on the chips. I’m also glad to know why the dress will never look the same on me as it does on the model.

 

Thankful for Ye Olde Pilgrim Games

We play outdoor games at Thanksgiving. I blame the Kennedys. As a child, I remember hearing about the Kennedys JFK footballplaying football at Hyannis Port every Thanksgiving. Everyone around me had eaten themselves into a carbohydrate-induced stupor and the Kennedys were outside playing ball. It sounded so fun. So wholesome. And they all had such good teeth.

We instituted a tradition of Thanksgiving games a decade ago when the youngest invited a bunch of college friends home the weekend before Thanksgiving. After feeding them, we announced Ye Olde Pilgrim Games would commence out back.

The original (and only) pilgrim game consisted of a person balancing the tip of a broom handle in the palm of one hand, staring up at the bristles and spinning in a circle 10 times. We told the kids that the game was a favorite of William Bradford. We think they believed us. Even the history majors.

After spinning wildly, the player throws the broom to the ground and tries to jump over it. This results in a lot of staggering, tripping, falling, sprawling and great Ye Olde Pilgrim Game photos. If only the Pilgrims had had cell phones.

In the ensuing 10 years, we have acquired numerous small grandchildren whom we do not want spinning to the point of nausea so our traditions are changing. Last year we implemented new Ye Olde Pilgrim Games, including a turkey chase and a deer hunt.

Yes, the deer did look a lot like the husband wearing felt reindeer antlers and a cardboard deer huntbox with four cardboard legs and a tail. Each grandchild got two tags, or purple Post-Its. (It is a little known fact that the Pilgrims lived in a two-tag county.)

They tore out of the house and flushed out the deer with shrieking and screaming. Back and forth, in and out of the pines, around the maple, the deer was tagged once, twice, maybe three times. Then the deer cut a sharp turn, stumbled and dropped to the ground.

The deer jumped back up, but his cardboard hindquarters had been crushed, his chest was creased, his antlers were catawampus and the tail was history. The deer hunt was suspended due to a sensitive toddler screaming, “Don’t hurt Grandpa!”

The turkey chase went slightly better in that there was no crying.  The goal was to pluck brightly colored feathers from the turkey. This was a tall challenge since the hunt party hovered around 40 inches high and the turkey was 6-foot-2 (tall for even a free-range pilgrim turkey). There seemed to be a clear winner until the kids started swapping feathers for different colors and eventually nobody knew which feathers belonged to who or who had how many.

In any case, new traditions were born and will continue again this year providing a deer and turkey step forward. There is one tradition that never changes however, and that is the one of gathering around the table, sharing a bounty of food and giving thanks to God for his generous provision. A heart of thanksgiving was as essential to life in 1600s as it is today. The world around us changes constantly, but a few of the permanent things never do.

Wrap rage leads to life on the cutting edge

Nothing destroys self-confidence like losing a battle with a package marked “Easy Open.”

Last week a shrink-wrapped smoked sausage got the better of me. A big red arrow marked the Easy Open corner where you peel the front from the back and the sausage gleefully falls into the skillet.easy open

I tried peeling the Easy Open corner with my fingernail. I tried separating it by flicking it back and forth. I thought about trying my teeth, but why risk hundreds of dollars’ worth of dental work on a few bucks of meat?

I decided to cut right through the package with kitchen shears, but realized my old pair had snapped in two and the new ones I had purchased were still unopened in one of those impossible to open blister packs. It’s quite a conundrum when you need shears to get at your shears to get at your sausage.

Blister packs are the culprits often causing wrap rage. Maybe you haven’t heard of wrap rage, but it’s real. I know this kitchen aid shearqsbecause it is on the Internet. Wrap rage is defined as “heightened levels of anger and frustration resulting from the inability to open hard-to-open packaging particularly some heat-sealed plastic blister packs and clamshells.”

Ninety-one percent of Canadians have experienced wrap rage. Two-thirds of Brits suffer wrap rage. There are no statistics on the number of Americans suffering wrap rage because we are suffering from pollster rage, which precludes us from answering questions about wrap rage. So much rage, so little time.

Wrap rage is usually caused by blister packaging, a thick, hard plastic that conforms to the shape of the product and is virtually impenetrable, short of a box cutter, hack saw or the fangs on a German shepherd.dog teeth If you do manage to pierce the packaging, razor sharp edges will then lacerate your hands and knuckles. In fact, blister packaging is a terrible misnomer. It should be called cut and bleed packaging.

Of all the things housed in blister packs (hair styling implements, batteries, tools, lightbulbs) the saddest ones of all are the dolls. They cower in rigid, plastic bio domes with zip ties fastened around their limbs. It’s sick, like they’re in bondage. There’s something wrong about a child watching an adult wrestle a thick plastic tie from around the neck of Baby Drink and Wet.

Of course, the reason we encase and tether everything from toy trucks to cosmetics and computer accessories is to prevent theft. Today there is absolutely nothing that someone won’t steal — from steak and shrimp at the grocery to the copper tubing on an air conditioning unit.

Our youngest worked at a Bed Bath and Beyond in college and said the most frequently stolen item was the votive-size Yankee candle. I wish I didn’t know that because now whenever I’m in someone’s home and they are burning a Yankee candle, I wonder if they stole it.

It might be a good deterrent to theft to package votive candles in blister packs and then require offenders to open
thousands of them using nothing but broken kitchen shears. And maybe their teeth.

From death to the joy of life and a burgundy recliner

We have had a strange run with a funeral nearly every week since late September, a sad and mournful toll of accidents, age and disease.

Having been witness to the finality of life so much in recent days, it causes me to ponder my own mortality and how I might live differently.

After considerable thought, I decided not much.

I live intentionally for the most part, and am prepared to meet my Creator. That said, I did decide I would probably clean out some closets and dresser drawers and wish our finances were in better order. Note, I didn’t say I would actually put our finances in better order, simply that I would wish they were in better order.

The heartache of death is often tempered by the joy of new life, which is why Providence ordained that I would be hosting a baby shower this weekend. I dropped off decorations to be assembled to a friend and neighbor helping with the shower.

Her house was trashed, just as she said it would be. Paper scraps with pencil squiggles were scattered about in the front hall. The family room was littered with toys and stuffed animals, games and scads of plastic hangers. The trail of clutter led directly to a burgundy recliner. There sat my friend’s husband and their granddaughter, snuggled side by side watching Bob the Builder or some other such show with short people wearing yellow hats operating construction equipment.

My friend’s husband has a Ph.D, in history. He’s not a cartoon sort of guy. But he was today. And he was happy to be so.

The charmer beside him was feeling secure and content, sheltered from all the world and all of life’s uncertainties by her grandpa’s presence and strong right arm.  What a golden start to life, to be loved and protected and made to feel safe. How different life might have been for some of those making headlines had they been showered with love and stability as small children. The little one shot me a look with her dark brown eyes that clearly said, “Do Not Disturb.”

I wouldn’t dare.

The book of Genesis details the creation of light and the heavens and the water and the land and all the things that swim in the seas and move upon the earth. Each of those wonders is anchored within the creation of time.

I was saying goodbye to a young family recently after an hour or so together. They are intentional about their use of time and were on their way to another commitment. As we parted, the father sighed and said, “It seems we are always so busy.”

We all are. And therein lies the rub — how to harness time and use it in ways that will reverberate through hearts and minds and eternity.

One of the greatest gifts we are given in this life is that of time. One of the greatest gifts we can give others is time.

So put your arm around a loved one and have a seat.